The Many Forms of Self-Care


woman holding cup of flowers Providence Moms Blog. Yesterday I took a nap while my kids were at school. Today I might take another one. And guess what? I refuse to feel lazy or guilty about it. Instead, I acknowledge that sleep is a form of self-care. Avery wise friend of mine once noted that she couldn’t understand why people were so afraid of sleep. She observed that if she admitted she took a long nap over the weekend or tucked in early for a twelve hour night, people started accusing her of being depressed. Rather, she argued, she was in tune with what her body needed and she was taking excellent care of herself. I’ve never forgotten those words, and I’ve recently accepted that she was so right.

As moms, we accept that we’re going to be sleep deprived for a lot of reasons: nighttime feedings with infants, nightmares, illness, stress, anxiety, or trying to get too much done after the kids go to bed or before they get up. So why are we unwilling to accept that grabbing a nap during the day is also completely normal?

In my mind, it all comes down to our martyr syndrome. I don’t mean to suggest that as moms we want to be martyrs, although certainly, some women do play up the role. Rather, it seems acceptable in our society that moms bear the vast burden of all things child-related and are expected to sacrifice their needs and wants with saintly fortitude. Forget the actual sleep deprivation–this overwhelming load in and of itself can drain us!

So, I have recently committed very seriously to self-care, and what I’ve found is that it doesn’t look the same every day. For example, I was joking with a friend about binging on loaded tater tots. “Self-care takes many forms,” I quipped, “and right now it’s coming in the form of carbs.” While that was certainly mostly an excuse for overeating the “wrong” foods, it got me thinking. Of course, I shouldn’t indulge every craving every time, but comfort food has that name for a reason.

How many of us are aware of the medical benefits of massage, yet continue to view massages as indulgent or cosmetic? What about quiet time, affirmations, reading for pleasure, or exercise? Sometimes exercise feels like a chore, and sometimes I feel guilty for putting my children in the child watch program at the gym, but I also recognize that the best thing I can do for my family is to grow a healthy mind and a healthy body.

Scheduling time for self-care is actually just as important as scheduling my children’s activities or our annual fireplace cleaning. If I am the one who keeps our family and household running, then it’s vital that I keep myself running, too. Just as I would never skip an oil change because our lives skid to a halt without reliable transportation, I really can’t skip self-care.

When things start to go sideways or I find myself overly irritable, sleep is usually what I need. IT professionals get a bad rap for, when our computers are malfunctioning, always suggesting that we turn it off and turn it back on again…but isn’t sleep the human equivalent of that? Sometimes we just have to turn ourselves off before we can be fully “on” again. I’m quite certain my laptop never feels guilty about the fact that it needs some time off to regroup, so why should I?

Moms, I encourage you to do one thing every day for you and see how it changes your world. Sometimes I lay on my acupressure mat for two minutes, sometimes I read affirmations aloud in the school pickup line for thirty seconds, sometimes I eat loaded tots, and sometimes I take a two-hour nap. And guess what? All of those things make me a healthy, happier, more present person, and most of all, mom.